05:01am Tuesday 19 November 2019

Man in ‘vegetative state’ able to communicate with researchers

By Communications Staff 

A British research team has been successful in communicating with a man presumed to have been in a vegetative state for five years. The techniques used by the researchers at the University of Cambridge are complementary to work under way at The University of Western Ontario.
Using a brain-scanning technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the Cambridge research team, led by Dr. Adrian Owen, studied 54 patients, determining whether they were able to generate brain responses during two mental-imagery tasks. Among five who showed the ability to do so, one patient was actually able to use the technique to answer yes or no to questions during  fMRI.
The techniques employed by Owen are extremely complementary to the research in conscious and unconscious perception being pursued by Dr. Mel Goodale, Director of Western’s Centre for Brain and Mind, and Dr. Ravi Menon, Director of the Centre for Functional and Metabolic Mapping at Western’s Robarts Research Institute, which has been a major developer of functional brain imaging technologies used by researchers at Brain and Mind.

The Robarts Research Institute at Western is home to Canada’s only 7 Tesla (7T) fMRI imaging system.

Western’s researchers have been in communication with Owen, and have approached him about the possibility of bringing his research to Canada.

The Cambridge research shows why it is so important to understand what areas of the human brain are involved in different cognitive and sensory functions and more importantly, how we can willfully modulate those areas.

Both Goodale and Menon are available to speak with members of the news media about their own research and to offer insight into the impact of the research by Owen’s Cambridge team.

For interviews, contact Ann Hutchison, Director of Media Relations at The University of Western Ontario, 519-495-7717, ahutch2@uwo.ca

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